I decided to do a post about exercising and pregnancy. Now as a disclaimer before I write I want to reiterate that I am NOT medically qualified. Do NOT take what I write as the only way to do things and most importantly before starting (or continuing) an exercise program when pregnant CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR!!!
Mr OL and I decided that we would start trying to have a baby after we had been married a year – which was in August 2008. I was quite into triathlons and running was worried that if I fell pregnant I would need to stop doing this. So I started looking online for examples of people who had run through their pregnancy, what their experiences were and how long they were able to keep running. I also spoke to a number of running friends and found out about their experiences.
I also found some blogs of girls that were triathletes and moms and read what they had done. Some good examples that I found were Bree Wee, Mama Simmons and Rachel’s blog, Run like a Mother. Bree Wee is a professional triathlete and her blog is very informative (and fun to read). Mama Simmon’s has a few links to girls that were pregnant at the same time as her and continuted running. I also went onto various forums to see what else I could find out. In the mean time I started training for Ironman South Africa (and hoped to hell I did not fall pregnant as it grew closer and closer to the race). Luckily I am good at counting so odds were against it.
After IM we all know what happened. One of the first things one of MR OL’s friends said to me was “now you have to stop all that nonsense.” Cough, cough uhhh ‘scuse me!!! No I don’t. Just because I am pregnant does not mean that need to stop anything. I bought James Clapp’s book “Exercising through your pregnancy” and started reading.
Here is what I found out (remember that this is only my interpretation of what I have read). Running is fine, swimming is fine, dancing is fine (except I have no rhythm and being pregnant is not going to help), aerobics is fine (except see previous post), cycling is fine and so is pretty much everything else with moderation. With the exception of deep sea diving and high altitudes if you don’t already live up there. Cycling is also not advised as your pregnancy progresses but just because your centre of balance is off and you might fall (or I might fall as I wobble a bit anyway).
You can carry on running (or whatever) right through your pregnancy – with the consent of your doctor. However if it is a low risk, normal pregnancy there should be no problems. Obviously doing a marathon at high speed is not advised. But your normal jog around the block(s) is actually recommended. That old rule of not getting your heart rate above 140 has gone out the window. Now it is recommend that you go on Rate of Perceived Exertion. Moderate to moderate/hard is recommend. Basically you should be able to hold a conversation (with a bit of puffing). Just as well that HR thing went out the window, mine gets up there just buy walking around the block (I have a high HR what can I say).
Now to the interesting things I found out while reading James Clapp’s book. People who exercised throughout their pregnancy picked up less weight, delivered babies that had a lower fat percentage (but were the same size atomically) and were less likely to deliver late. There were no instances were exercise had caused a baby to be born prematurely or that exercising had caused any other problems. In fact babies of mothers who exercised were more able to cope with trauma’s during pregnancy like dehydration or hemorrhaging because the placenta was better developed. The most interesting fact that I picked up though was of mothers who had exercised then stopped in the 3rd trimester. Their weight caught up to and sometimes exceeded the mothers that had not exercised at all. Their babies were quite a bit fatter and they were more likely to deliver late. It seems to me that either exercise or don’t – but don’t’ stop ½ way!!!
He also found that exercising moms coped better with labour, but that it did not affect duration.
The risks people associate with exercising are that the baby will overheat or that when you exercise your blood flows away from your internal organs. Apparently your body is designed to cope with these and protects the baby. It appears from their research that exercising moms are more able to cope with heat than non exercising (benefit to me seeing as I will be pregnant in summer) and that yes, the blood does flow away from the internal organs including the womb, but in exercising moms the placenta is better developed, the babies heart rate also increases but not dangerously so, and the baby slows down its movement while you are exercising as if to conserve energy. From all their tests there were not instances where this caused trauma or distress to the baby.
Obviously there are quite a few exercises and conditions in which you should not exercise, like in excessive heat or that yoga done in a hot room and stuff like that. You also need to make sure that you don’t dehydrate (good advice for any athlete). Also if you are a competitive athlete you will need to cut back, but for the general recreational athlete, in consultation with her doctor it seems as if running (or jumping up and down in an aerobics room) is fine. They do recommend that towards the end you use some support of some kind because the reason most women stop is comfort.
Now my personal experience: I was running up till 6 weeks, in fact the morning I found out I had been for a 10km run and felt great. However the next week morning sickness hit and I just did not feel like running or doing much of anything. So I stopped. I have since been walking quite a bit, including a 55km 5 day hike and been for a few shorter slow runs. I feel a lot better now and am missing it a lot. I will start again slowly and have set myself a goal (I don’t function without them). As far as cycling goes – I stopped the day I found out. I don’t want to take the chance. I am not the best cyclist and although I have not fallen a lot, I have fallen so with my balance off it would be too risky. I might get on the stationary bike at the gym when it gets too hot to run outside. I also can’t wait for the weekly sea swims to start again but am worried that I won’t fit into my wetsuit. I HATE cold water. I am going to try and run/swim for as long as I can. Hopefully throughout my entire pregnancy. I will let you know how it goes.
As for my goal – it is a triathlon 2 months after the baby is born. It is a very short one – even shorter than a sprint. I will see how I feel (I might not want to sit on my bike just yet).
There is so much more that I could write and probably should, but for now I am going to stop there. If you have any questions please feel free to ask ….. your doctor!! Or me if you want.
If you are pregnant and want to know more I would seriously recommend reading Bree Wee’s blog about when she was pregant and what she did. Her child is now 3.